Not suitable for children: The dark side of JK Rowling

With the Potter days behind her, the author explains her obsession with killing characters

As JK Rowling revealed the secrets of her hugely anticipated new novel, she told the adoring crowd something her earlier work had only hinted, that she was "obsessed" by death.

The Casual Vacancy, her first book aimed at adults, was released at 8am yesterday and the celebrated writer took to the stage of London's Queen Elizabeth Hall some 12 hours later.

They did not come in wizard's cowls or with lightning bolts felt-tipped on their heads. It was an audience that had grown up into their late teens and early 20s with Harry Potter. And a fair share of older fans as well. Rowling rarely appears in public, but held her poise when met by a standing ovation from large sections of the sell-out crowd of 900.

When asked about the adult subject matter in a book that starts with a death, the author said: "Death obsesses me. I can't understand why it doesn't obsess everybody." She later added that writing about death "has made me much less afraid of it".

Rowling said her view was coloured by her mother dying when the author was 25, and being part of an aged family "people did die a lot in my teens".

While the release of Rowling's first novel in five years had met with mixed reviews from the critics, there was nothing but adoration last night.

She was interviewed on stage by BBC journalist Mark Lawson, who kicked off by talking about the author's involvement with the Olympic Opening Ceremony, where she read a passage from Peter Pan. "It's one of the best things I've ever, ever done. I was proud to be part of it." After 15 years much of the Potter references are "white noise" but the sight of Voldemort rising up gave her "a full body chill. It was a big moment for me".

Rowling had flown from Edinburgh to London on the morning of the release, spending much of the day trying to avoid reading reviews. She has not always been comfortable in front of audiences of adults. Crime writer and friend Ian Rankin believes she is in her element "in a room of kids". And she was in her element last night with the questions from her young fans. One had flown in from Spain and got a hug from the author as he gave her a present.

She revealed that she would change "quite a few things" about the Potter series stylistically and a few plot points including giving Harry a map that proved "far too useful". She revealed Dumbledore as her favourite character from that series but had no regrets over killing off some of the most prominent characters.

The Casual Vacancy is set in the fictional town of Pagford, and follows the chaos that ensues after the death of a local parish councillor. It covers heroin addiction, prostitution, drug dealing and rape. "This isn't Harry, Ron and Hermione. These are very different teenagers; contemporary teenagers," she said. "I genuinely think that this is a humorous book. Some of that humour may be dark."

There is also a strong theme of social justice, about which Rowling herself feels very strongly. Residents of her childhood village of Tutshill in Gloucestershire denied that they had inspired the "snobby" attitudes of the middle class community. "It's life in a small town and everything that entails," she said. "Pagford is fictional."

The Independent's book editor said that despite being "slowed down by its fussy class geography and wheezing plot-motor, the novel builds into a vividly melodramatic climax".

Read all about it: JK Rowling on...

e-books: "I was hesitant as I didn't know what they were."

printed books: "I'll always love print. I can't read an iPad in the bath."

the Harry Potter film casting: "They were all too good looking."

the swearing in her book: "To depict Krystal without swearing would be ridiculous."

the Harry Potter books: "There are things I would change – quite a few things."

Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model of a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution